Last month, the NFL concluded its season with one of the best Super Bowls anyone has seen in a long time. And while the MLB’s Opening Day was looking grim for a while, it will return next month, only slightly delayed, and with a new CBA to boot. The end of the regular season for both the NBA and NHL are approaching, both leagues promising, as always, an exciting postseason.
So what will happen in the lull between all of those milestones of the major sports? That’s right: it’s time for March Madness!
And if you’re feeling excited about one of the biggest sports events of the year, you’re not alone, because interest in the Big Dance is back to pre-pandemic levels.
In fact, those who plan on following the tournament “somewhat” closely are above pre-pandemic levels, and those who aren’t going to follow closely at all are declining fast from last year.
This may be an extension of trends CivicScience noted late last year, showing a big jump in interest in sports in a post-pandemic world. Or maybe the rise of sports betting is making the otherwise less interested viewer keep an eye on the games a little more this year.
Either way, intent to participate in a tournament pool is similarly on the rise this year. Perhaps those who have returned to work in an office are looking forward to competing against the coworkers they haven’t seen in person in two years.
This growth in interest in the tournament this year may also be related to the overall growth NCAA basketball is having in general.
Fans of the men’s league have been steadily growing over the last several years, with the exception of a slight dip in 2020.
Most interestingly, interest in the women’s tournament this year is nearly as high as that of the men’s.
And this increase in viewership of the women’s tournament is largely driven mostly by those young and male.
In fact, those aged 18 – 24 demonstrate a higher likelihood to “very” or “somewhat closely” follow the women’s tournament, rather than the men’s.
Of note, however, is that those who plan on closely watching the men’s tournament are generally evenly distributed among education, with a skew towards those who have a graduate or professional degree, indicating perhaps that people like to root for their alma mater.
But when it comes to the women’s tournament, trends skew sharply the opposite way. The tournament is much more likely to be closely followed by those with a high school degree or lower, again reiterating that younger people will watch the games, but also that the games are watched by those who like basketball, and don’t necessarily have a personal attachment to any team.
And this idea is reinforced when we look at how closely NBA fans plan on watching each of the tournaments.
While the numbers are not exactly equal, we see that big NBA fans are also big fans of both the men’s and women’s tournaments. When we compare these numbers to the NFL, we don’t see nearly as much cross-sport interest.
What is perhaps clear, however, is that basketball fans really love to watch basketball, both men’s and women’s. And further, women’s NCAA basketball is only growing in viewership and popularity.
Perhaps advertisers, the NCAA, and media coverage, especially in light of last year’s controversy over disparities in available amenities for men’s and women’s teams, should take note.